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Peer and Individual Risk Factors in Adolescence Explaining the Relationship Between Girls’ Pubertal Timing and Teenage Childbearing


Girls with early pubertal timing are at elevated risk for teenage childbearing; however, the modifiable mechanisms driving this relationship are not well understood. The objective of the current study was to determine whether substance use, perceived peer substance use, and older first sexual partners mediate the relationships among girls’ pubertal timing, sexual debut, and teenage childbearing. Data are from Waves 1—15 of the female cohort of the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), a nationwide, ongoing cohort study of U.S. men and women born between 1980 and 1984. The analytic sample (n = 2066) was 12–14 years old in 1997 and ethnically diverse (51 % white, 27 % black, 22 % Latina). Using structural equation modeling, we found substance use in early adolescence and perceived peer substance use each partially mediated the relationships among girls’ pubertal timing, sexual debut, and teenage childbearing. Our findings suggest early substance use behavior as one modifiable mechanism to be targeted by interventions aimed at preventing teenage childbearing among early developing girls.

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Ms. Hendrick received support from the grant, 5 T32 HD007081, Training Program in Population Studies, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Cance and Dr. Maslowsky are Faculty Research Associates of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant 5 R24 HD042849.

Authors’ Contributions

CEH conceived of the study, participated in its design, performed statistical analysis, and coordinated and drafted the manuscript; JDC supervised the study and statistical analysis, participated in study design, coordination, interpretation of the data, and critical revision of the manuscript; JM participated in statistical analysis, interpretation of the data, and critical revision of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jessica Duncan Cance.

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The present study was deemed not to be human subjects research by the Institutional Review Board of the sponsoring university. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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Hendrick, C.E., Cance, J.D. & Maslowsky, J. Peer and Individual Risk Factors in Adolescence Explaining the Relationship Between Girls’ Pubertal Timing and Teenage Childbearing. J Youth Adolescence 45, 916–927 (2016).

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